How the far-right are trying to deter refugees from entering Sweden

Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson. Credit: Johan Wessman/News Øresund.

A controversial flyer warning refugees against coming to Sweden is the work of the Sweden Democrats (SD). On Monday, the far-right party’s communication manager confirmed that party members are distributing these flyers in seventeen cities on Europe’s border.

Under the headline of “No money, no jobs, no homes” the flyer argues that mass immigration made Sweden a hotbed for violent crime. It claims that Sweden ‘demonstrates the second highest number of rape reports in the entire world’. Others made a similar argument on the Gatestone Institute website in February 2015. But both miss the point.

Rising crime figures do not suggest an epidemic, rather a shift in public attitudes, and policing methods. Take for example, in 2005, when Sweden passed a new sexual offences legislation. This change meant that incidents once classed as sexual exploitation are now classed as rape. In 2013, legislative amendments broadened the definition of rape included victims deemed passive. The ease of alcohol and internet access are other societal factors police use to explain the rising incident levels.

Comparing rape statistics between countries is not conducive on two levels: there is no international standard for producing crime statistics; and legal definitions alongside police procedures vary between countries.

Klara Selin, a sociologist at the National Council for Crime Prevention in Stockholm, told the BBC in 2012 that “when a woman comes to the police and she says my husband or my fiance raped me almost every day during the last year, the police have to record each of these events, which might be more than 300 events. In many other countries it would just be one record – one victim, one type of crime, one record.”

The flyer goes onto to warn individuals in Lesbos that Sweden will send them away if they attempt to enter the country. It warns that Sweden will ban polygamy, forced marriage, halal slaughter, and the wearing of certain Islamic veils in public.

In contrast, on Saturday, in the southwestern town of Floda, arsonists burnt down a proposed refugee centre. The latest fire is of one of twelve suspected arsons targeting refugees and migrants in Sweden this year.

Jimmie Åkesson, leader of the Sweden Democrats, warned against refugees entering the country last month. His party came third at the 2014 election with 12.9 per cent. A recent poll put the Sweden Democrats as the largest single party. Other polls put their public support at 20 per cent.

Åkesson has condemned the arsons. But a local SD politician named Ted Ekeroth published on his Facebook a list of proposed buildings for asylum seekers. Ekeroth’s twin brother Kent, an MP, urged people to “use every method” to register their opposition.

A groundswell of support for the SD comes from its anti-establishment posturing. A study from Linköping University found this populism sits with xenophobic and Islamophobic frameworks.

The Swedish Resistance Movement, remains country’s most infamous and violent neo-Nazi movement. The SD has its own roots in Sweden’s neo-Nazi subcultures. Some fear a rebirth of the violent neo-Nazism of the past. Anton Lundin Pettersson murdered a student and teaching assistant at a school in Trollhättan. Pettersson’s motivation was racist. And his social media account reveal flirtations with the SD and Nazism.

Others in Sweden are welcoming and supportive towards refugees. Some travel to places like Lesbos to assist. “As a Swedish citizen, I do not back this“, Mohammed Mouaid, a volunteer at Lesbos, told newspaper Södermanlands Nyheter.

Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven had asked the European Commission to push other EU member states to take in more refugees and migrants.

On a similar note, the Danish government had took out adverts in Lebanese newspapers to deter refugees in September.